When I first saw Alton Brown‘s show, “Good Eats” some years ago, he didn’t strike me as a chef, and had as much “celeb” in him as that fish you see on the picture above. Bespectacled and always clad in those Florida-esque loose short-sleeved shirts, Alton may not have the silkiness of Wolfgang or the pukka charm of Jamie, but his shows are by far the most interesting and well-informed.

In fact, Alton Brown won’t just give you the recipes to the typical yummy-looking dishes, you’ll learn about the ingredients, the alchemy and the cookware used too. Top that off with a little history, more trivia and Alton’s dry sense of humour, and you’ve got one great show, uniquely Alton Brown’s.

Alton started off as a cinematographer and video director (which you can see through the unique way his shows are shot and edited), but decided to pursue his real passion (food!), when he saw the lack of “good” cooking shows on television at the time. Remember the video of REM‘s “The One I Love“? Alton was the director of photography.

He enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute to learn the fundamentals of cooking, finishing in 1997. In July of 1998, the pilot of Good Eats made its debut, and has been going steadily strong to this day, most popularly known for its quirky references to pop culture, where Alton dresses up and makes us giggle, while making some very good points on food and cookware too.

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Cabernet grapes on vine

Sometimes, parties are more about the drinks than the food – is this right? Whether you think so or not, I do believe that you will enjoy this mulled wine recipe by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

3 star anise pods
3 allspice berries
6 whole black peppercorns
3 cinnamon sticks
1 large orange
6 whole cloves
3 bottles fruity red wine, such as Rioja, Grenache, Shiraz, or Raspberry Merlot
1 1/2 cups brandy or Grand Marnier
1 cup whole dried figs
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup dried, pitted and chopped prunes
3 hibiscus flowers, (optional, for garnish)

Special equipment: cheesecloth and butcher’s twine

To make the sachet:

Place a large square of cheesecloth on the cutting board. Add the star anise, allspice berries, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks directly to the center. Tie up the cheesecloth with the twine to make a small package and set aside.

To make the spiced wine:

1. Take the orange and stud it with the cloves. In a large pot (not aluminum) over medium heat, add the sachet, clove-studded orange, wine, and brandy. Stir to combine. Then add all of the dried fruit. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until the wine begins to simmer. Reduce heat to low; simmer until flavors have melded, about 30 minutes.
2. To serve, ladle out the spiced wine and some fruit to each glass. Garnish with hibiscus flowers, if desired. Serve immediately.

I don’t know about you but I can almost smell and taste that medley of fruity flavors!